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Norman students hope film helps rescue native tongues

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    Norman students hope film helps rescue native tongues
    Norman club interviewed tribal elders for award-winning language documentary
    by Jennifer Griswold
    NewsOK - The Oklahoman - 12 January 2009

    NORMAN — A documentary about the dying languages of American Indian tribes has received state honors for a group of Norman students, and is being used in classrooms as a teaching tool.

    Students in Norman High School’s Native American Club were recognized recently by state Education Department officials for their documentary, titled "When It’s Gone, It’s Gone.”

    The students interviewed tribal elders representing American Indian tribes in Oklahoma and asked them about their native languages and the struggle to keep their languages and cultures alive.

    Most of the elders on the video are in their 80s and have witnessed the languages of their tribes dying out as the younger generations were raised in an English-speaking society.

    Oklahoma has 39 federally recognized tribes, and many are losing their languages with few fluent speakers left, said Desa Dawson, director of world languages for the state Education Department.

    Mosiah Bluecloud, a former Norman High School student, said working on the documentary changed his life.

    "I felt sad as I listened to them talk about their children. It kind of made me feel helpless,” he said.

    Bluecloud, a Kickapoo, decided to change his major at the University of Oklahoma to linguistics, and he wants to become fluent in his native language.

    Dawson said she’s received comments from high school and college language teachers across the state who’ve shown the video in their classes and used it to start discussions about the cultural importance of language.

    The video has struck a chord with people, Dawson said.

    "You express your culture through your language, and without that language, it makes it that much more difficult to maintain your culture,” Dawson said.

    The 13 students who worked on the documentary and spoke to the elders learned a lot through the project, said Judith Blake, club sponsor.

    Bluecloud said he’s surprised word about the film spread like it did.

    "I hope it does something,” Bluecloud said. "I hope kids go to their grandparents and start learning words.”


    "When It's Gone It's Gone" - 17:09 - Mar 16, 2008
    Native American Club Productions

    A documentary filmed and produced by the Norman High School Native American Club. It examines the dying languages of Native Americans through the eyes of our Elders.

    "When It's Gone It's Gone"

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

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